In a much needed relief for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Supreme Court has turned down the pleas of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Bharatiya Janata Party seeking cancellation of elections on over 20,000 uncontested local body seats in West Bengal.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud exercised its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution and held that the limitation period of 30 days for filing the election petitions, which has expired, would now commence from the date of notification of panchayat poll results.
The ruling TMC and the BJP are in war of words over host of issues off- late. Had the verdict gone the other way, the bitter feud between the two parties would have escalated further if not it had already.
The Trinamool Congress welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on panchayat polls in West Bengal as a “victory of democracy” and asked opposition parties to apologise to the people of the state.
“We are very happy. We welcome the verdict of the court. It is a victory of democracy. We have been saying this for a long time,” TMC Lok Sabha MP Kalyan Banerjee said.
“This is a historic verdict. This is a big lesson for opposition parties. It has been proved that their allegations are baseless. They should apologise to the people of the state,” Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
All these uncontested seats were won unopposed by candidates of the ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition parties had alleged that their candidates were obstructed from filing nomination papers.
The apex court, however, took note of the allegations and said the aggrieved candidate may file election petitions to challenge panchayat polls in courts concerned.
Earlier, the apex court had termed the situation as “grim and grave” and had directed the West Bengal State Election Commission not to declare and notify the results of panchayat body elections in the wake of allegations of large scale violence and alleged obstruction of filing nomination papers.
The court, meanwhile, set aside the Calcutta high court decision directing the state poll panel to allow filing of nomination papers in panchayat elections through electronic forms such as e-mails and WhatsApp.
“The high court was in error while allowing the filing of nomination papers through electronic forms,” it said, adding, “no such process is either mentioned nor allowed under the provisions of the Representation of Peoples Act”.
Out of a total 58,692 posts for gram panchayat village, zilla parishad and panchayat samiti, 20,159 had remained uncontested in the violence-marred local polls in the state held in May this year.